2011 Michigan Preview – Offense
Michigan WR Roy Roundtree
CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview - Michigan Wolverine Offense
Preview 2011 - Offense
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The offense worked. It died against Ohio State and it went bye-bye after the first quarter against Mississippi State, but it worked finishing first in the Big Ten and eighth in the nation in yards and averaging 33 points per game. The running game was dominant, the passing game was efficient and effective, and now the new coaching staff is going to try to change it up. Denard Robinson was phenomenal, even after he cooled off, but he was always getting banged up. New offensive coordinator Al Borges wants more dropback pocket passing and more power running, but that's not exactly what the personnel is equipped for. Robinson isn't Peyton Manning and the line isn't huge, but head coach Brady Hoke always seems to find ways to get the backs in wide open spaces. The receiving corps is loaded with veterans, the line gets four starters back, and the backfield has several excellent rushing options. But it all comes down to Robinson and his ability to adapt to the new style and also stay healthy.
Star of the offense: Junior QB Denard Robinson
Passing: Denard Robinson
182-291, 2,570 yds, 18 TD, 11 INT
Rushing: Denard Robinson
256 carries, 1,702 yds, 14 TD
Receiving: Roy Roundtree
72 catches, 935 yds, 7 TD
Player who has to step up and be a star: Robinson … in the new system
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore RB Stephen Hopkins
Best pro prospect: Sophomore OT Taylor Lewan
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Robinson, 2) C David Molk, 3) WR Roy Roundtree
Strength of the offense: Experience, Robinson
Weakness of the offense: Pocket Passing, Sure Thing No. 1 RB
State of the Unit: The new coaching staff is going to try to change what a quarterback should be and should do. In a perfect world for Brady Hoke and offensive coordinator Al Borges it would be back to the days of Chad Henne and the standstill, pro-style bomber, with maybe a little more mobility. However, like the beginning of the Rich Rodriguez era, the offense will try to put a square peg into a round hole and it'll work with the players in place and will try to adjust accordingly. Tate Forcier has taken off and there isn't a sure-thing pure passer ready to fly, but there's plenty of superstar talent to play around.
Why wasn't Denard Robinson a Heisman finalist? He was the best player in America over the first half of last season with jaw-dropping performance after jaw-dropping performance, running for 105 yards or more in seven of the first eight games with 258 yards and two scores against Notre Dame and 217 yards and two scores against Indiana. Finishing with 1,702 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns to earn the Big Ten rushing crown, he was more than fine even when he wasn't taking off for highlight runs. Yes, he only ran for two scores in his last five games, with both coming against Wisconsin, but he was still electrifying and had to be focused on every time he was under center.
The passing game wasn't all that bad completing 63% of his throws for 2,570 yards with 18 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, but the picks were a problem. Most effective when he didn't have to throw, he struggled when he had to try to bring the team back through the air and he proved that the best way to make a big play was to get him into the open field. He can throw and he has a strong, adequate arm, but the former Florida state champion-level sprinter is at his best when he gets to show off his 4.32 speed and cutting ability.
While he's not small at 6-0 and 193 pounds, he gets banged up way too easily and isn't able to handle the 256-carry workload he took on last year. The new coaching staff will keep him at quarterback and will try to make him more of a passer, but the idea will be to keep letting him run while making sure he's more effective with fewer carries.
There's a chance that Robinson moves to more of a slash role as the season goes on if Devin Gardner proves to be too good of a dropback passer to keep off the field. The 6-4, 210-pound true sophomore was a terrific get for Rich Rodriguez and was considered to be a slightly smaller, potentially better passing Terrelle Pryor with the size, the running ability, and the upside to be a special all-around playmaker. He got in a little bit of work and looked the part, completing 7-of-10 passes for 85 yards and a score, while running for 21 yards and a touchdown on just seven carries, and now he'll have to be at the ready with Robinson's injury history and problems with picks.
Watch Out For … Gardner. Denard Robinson might have been growing into a faster, more effective Pat White, the former star of the West Virginia attack, but this offense needs a passer. Gardner might be the better overall fit for the new system and he needs to take advantage of every opportunity to show why.
Strength: Speed. Gardner is a phenomenal athlete with great mobility and a live arm. He can make plays on the move and he needs to be accounted for as a rushing threat. And then there's Robinson, who's breath-holding amazing every time he's on the move.
Weakness: Turnovers. This has been a problem over the last few years for the Michigan quarterbacks with 14 interceptions in 2009 and 15 last year. Robinson's spring session didn't exactly inspire any confidence, and while the offense will mostly get the good from Robinson and Gardner, it has to be ready for the occasional crippling giveaway.
Outlook: Is Robinson going to ready to make the adjustments needed to make the attack work like it's supposed to? He still needs plenty of time after an occasionally rough offseason. Is Gardner ready to step in and consistently shine if needed? The jury is still out. Losing a safety valve in Forcier hurts, considering he might have been the best overall fit for the Borges attack, but Robinson and Gardner are good enough to make the position a plus. They just need to be able to do what they do best.
Unit Rating: 9
State of the Unit: The running game was Denard Robinson and more Denard Robinson most of the time, and while he was the team's best rushing threat by far, there were others who got in the mix for the nation's 13th best rushing attack. Michigan finished with 3,101 yards and 35 touchdowns, and while Robinson got more than half of those yards, there's reason to be excited with all the top runners back and a few nice recruits on the way. Including Robinson and now-receiver Kelvin Grady, every rushing yard from last year returns except for the 51 gained by Tate Forcier. It'll be a running back-by-committee approach with the hot hand, or legs, getting the work.
Sophomore Stephen Hopkins has 6-0, 227-pound size and 4.5 speed to be the total package in the right system. While he wasn't a superstar recruit last year, he was a good-looking prospect who showed enough to get the ball 37 times for 151 yards and four touchdowns as a decent reserve. While he's not exactly the perfect fit for what the offense wants to do, he has looked good enough to get a shot at the No. 1 job.
Brady Hoke's teams get mega-production out of smallish, quick backs, and that's where junior Vincent Smith comes in. The 5-6, 180-pound speedster finished second on the team with 601 yards and five touchdowns. While he was part of a rotation, he took over the starting job as the Big Ten season started and was decent, but only averaged 4.4 yards per carry. With his speed and hands, catching 15 passes for 130 yards and two scores, he can be deadly when he's in space.
6-1, 187-pound senior Michael Shaw started the first four games and got the starting nod in the bowl game, and he was generally effective finishing third on the team with 402 yards with nine touchdowns, averaging 5.4 yards per game, but health is his problem. A slippery runner who's great when he gets his nose around the goal line, he had concussion problems, suffered a hernia a few years ago, and broke his hand this offseason. When he's right he has the ability to be among the Big Ten's most productive backs and he has the speed and talent to occasionally explode.
6-0, 211-pound junior Michael Cox has always had the ability and he has the combination of size and 4.47 speed, but he hasn't had the ball too much getting just six carries for 56 yards against Bowling Green. Sophomore Fitzgerald Toussaint is a slim speedster who was considered a great threat for the spread attack – courted by Illinois to be a featured back – finishing with 87 yards and a score in his limited role. At 5-10 and 200 pounds he has decent size and can bust off the big play, but he'll get stuck in a log jam.
Ready to shine right away is star recruit Justice Hayes, who was about to go to Notre Dame but changed direction to Ann Arbor. The 5-10, 175-pounder is a great receiver and a 4.45 speed back who can blast through the hole and crank out big yards any time he touches the ball. Considering how Brady Hoke likes to use young running backs, there might be a place right away for the quick-cutting, effective back.
When the offense uses a fullback, 6-1, 231-pound senior John McColgan will be the blocker. A smart, tough player who saw time in every game, he's purely a blocker and a special teamer. While he didn't get any carries, he made the most of his one catch scoring on a two-yard play against Bowling Green.
Watch Out For … Hopkins. There are so many good, talented backs that it'll be crazy to wear down any one back, or Denard Robinson, but Hopkins has the size, speed, and make-up to be an interesting factor in the mix. He's more of a feature-back than a jitterbug quick playmaker, but he'll get every chance to take the running game by the horns.
Strength: MiQuale Lewis and Ronnie Hillman. Under Brady Hoke these two were among the best running backs in America in their respective seasons. Lewis ripped off 1,732 yards and 22 touchdowns, with 35 catches, in 2008 for Ball State, while Hillman came up with 1,532 yards and 17 touchdowns for San Diego State last season. Michigan's running backs will produce.
Weakness: Reliability. Yeah, the Wolverines have running back talent to spare, but is there any one back the offense can count on week in and week out? A rotation will be nice, but it would be a big help to take the pressure off Robinson, and maybe Devin Gardner, if there was one back who could become the main man with everyone working around him.
Outlook: Michigan fans, you might be still partying it up over the loss of Rich Rodriguez, but his offense loaded up the program with lots and lots of talented running backs to combine with the players who were already in the system. The 2011 Michigan offense will give the runners wide open holes to run through, and the one who can stay healthy, hold on to the ball, and make the quick burst through the space consistently enough will be the main man.
Unit Rating: 8
State of the Unit: Contrary to popular belief, the passing game wasn't ignored in the Rich Rodriguez system. Michigan finished third in the Big Ten in rushing and second in passing, and it was 23rd in the nation in passing efficiency. The goal, though, is to be even better and stronger through the air after the Wolverine quarterbacks combined to complete 63% of their passes for 3,252 yards and 23 touchdowns with 15 picks. The receivers are in place to help the cause with the top five wide receivers – with the possible exception of a key suspension – returning and with all eight players who caught ten passes or more returning.
It's time for junior Roy Roundtree to start getting even more respect after earning Second Team All-Big Ten honors with a team-leading 72 catches for 935 yards and seven scores. While there were a few too many drops, he blew up against Illinois, catching nine passes for 246 yards and two scores, and was steady throughout the year and finished with four 100-yard games. At 6-0 and 176 pounds he's not all that big, and he's not all that physical, but he's a well-rounded receiver who does whatever it needed inside and out.
One of the biggest question marks in the Michigan receiving corps is the status of Darryl Stonum, who was arrested for drunken driving and for driving on a suspended license. He was sentenced to two years probation after pleading guilty, and his status with the team is still up in the air. If he gets back on the field he's a dangerous deep threat who finished second on the team with 49 catches for 633 yards and four scores, and he was a terrific kickoff returner averaging 23.3 yards per try. At 6-2 and 195 pounds the senior has the size, and he has the deep speed, but he has to be more of a scorer after getting into the end zone just twice over the final ten games.
Combining at one spot will be seniors Junior Hemingway and Martavious Odoms, two good veterans who know what they're doing. The 6-1, 225-pound Hemingway has had health problems in the past with a knee injury and illness, but after missing the first part of last year he finished third on the team with 32 catches for 593 yards and four scores, averaging 16.5 yards per catch, highlighted by a nine-catch, 134-yard, one score day against Iowa. The 5-8, 175-pound Odoms was on his way to a good year catching 15 passes for 214 yards before breaking his foot and missing the final six games of the regular season. He was able to return for the bowl game and caught a 27-yard touchdown pass. Considering his past problems with a hamstring and a sprained knee, he has to prove he can stay on the field.
Senior Kelvin Grady saw time in every game and got the start in the slot against Purdue finishing with 17 catches for 211 yards. At 5-10 and 176 pounds he's not big, but he's extremely quick, versatile, and can be used as a runner as well as a key target in the rotation. Also working in the mix in the Z-Back role is Drew Dileo, a 5-10, 171-pound sophomore who spent most of his time on special teams. He caught a pass for three yards, and now he'll bring his decent speed and quickness to four-wide sets.
Back at tight end is Kevin Koger, a 6-4, 255-pound senior who has been a decent player for the last few years, but he has been underutilized. With great size and good hands he can be a matchup problem if used more. A proven receiver, he caught 14 passes for 199 yards and two scores with a 60-yarder against Penn State. He's also a solid blocker who does a good job of getting down the field. Backing him up is 6-5, 250-pound junior Brandon Moore, a great-sized special teamer who has one career catch.
Watch Out For … Koger. The easiest way to work the quarterbacks into the new passing style is to have a strong, consistent outlet valve to rely on. Koger has had a decent career, but he has the skills to be a far, far greater weapon.
Strength: Experience. Assuming Stonum will be back in the mix, everyone of note returns. Roundtree is a special target, but he's hardly the only good veteran. There should be an excellent, dangerous, reliable rotation.
Weakness: Health. This corps has had a variety of injury issues over the last few years, and while there haven't been too many major problems, it's asking for too much to expect everyone to last for a full season. Throw in the Stonum issues, and there's a chance several unknowns become the big stars.
Outlook: The receivers were great last year and the potential is there to do even more. Vincent Brown and DeMarco Sampson were tremendously productive for San Diego State, and while there isn't a Ryan Lindley-like passer who can get them the ball, the overall talent level is better than Hoke has ever had to work with.
Unit Rating: 7
State of the Unit: Thanks to the mobility of the quarterbacks, the offensive line didn't give up too many sacks, allowing a Big Ten-low 11, and while it wasn't exactly a blasting, Wisconsin-style front five, the results for the running game were there. And now four starters return. Brady Hoke is great at getting his lines to open up the gaping holes needed to get the backs into space, and this group is built for doing just that.
Sophomore Taylor Lewan is a very tall, very promising left tackle who started nine times last year and grew into the role. At 6-8 and 294 pounds he has the right frame and the tremendous strength to neutralize any Big Ten defensive end, and with his combination of size, speed, and athleticism he has all the tools to grow into a special blocker. Now he has to stay healthy after getting knocked out for a bit late in the year with a head injury. 6-7, 310-pound redshirt freshman Kristian Mateus has the size and potential to grow into a good left tackle with a little time.
Back on the right side is senior Mark Huyge, one of the team's most versatile blockers who started three times at left tackle and three games on the right side. At 6-6 and 306 pounds he's built a bit like a guard, and can move to the inside, but he's growing into the role on the outside. Physical, he's great when he gets his hands on a defender. Backing him up is 6-7, 293-pound sophomore Michael Schofield, a nice reserve who saw time in every game. A special teamer, he has the quickness and athleticism to be a good part of the rotation.
Back for yet another year in the middle is senior David Molk after earning First Team All-Big Ten honors. With 29 starts under his belt, the Rimington finalist knows what he's doing and has grown into a terrific technician. While he's a pounder for the ground game, he's great in pass protection as he finally stayed healthy and lived up to all the potential he had as one of the nation's top center recruits in 2007. Even with past knee problems, he's athletic. 6-4, 295-pound junior Rocko Khoury is the understudy who'll likely take over the middle next year, but in the meantime he's a versatile backup who can see time at tackle but will be needed more to be at the ready in the middle if Molk has injury problems again.
Junior Patrick Omameh is a very strong, versatile lineman who started the last three games of 2009 and right guard and held down the job throughout last year. At 6-4 and 299 pounds he's not huge, but he's very smart, moves well, and he's reliable. Great on the move, he'll make things happen down the field when needed and could be the perfect blocker for what the new offense wants to do. 6-2, 280-pound redshirt freshman Christian Pace was a good center prospect and now he'll work at right guard. He's not all that big, but he's extremely strong and should be great for the ground game.
6-3, 286-pound junior Ricky Barnum has been a backup at both left guard and left tackle, and now he'll get the call at left guard in place of Stephen Schilling. He only saw time in three games last season working both inside and out, and now the Florida native needs to prove he can handle the full-time work. Bringing more size is 6-5, 313-pound junior Elliott Mealer, a special teamer with tremendous strength and good potential at both guard jobs.
Watch Out For … more power running. The line has been molded into an athletic group that's good on the move, and it did a great job last year. Now it'll get more of a chance to line up and blast away for the ground game. Expect the Wolverines to be more physical.
Strength: Experience. Barnum is an X factor with good upside but little experience. Everyone else knows what they're doing and the starting experience is there. The mistakes should be kept to a minimum.
Weakness: Pass protection … now that the offense has changed. The line couldn't keep the quarterbacks clean in 2009 with the freshmen quarterbacks not knowing what they're doing, and last year the mobility of Robinson, and defensive back sevens hanging back in fear of No. 16 taking off, helped the stats. Now the offense will do more pocket passing and the line has to prove it can provide the time needed.
Outlook: The line was unfairly blamed for a slew of the offensive problems in 2009, and it improved last year and became a strength. There might not be a lot of all-stars outside of Molk and maybe Lewan, but there's experience, decent depth, and the potential to be really, really good. But there's going to be an adjustment period and this group needs to shine to give everyone else time to figure out what they're doing.
Unit Rating: 7.5
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